[b-hebrew] The Name

JBarach at aol.com JBarach at aol.com
Thu Sep 14 12:16:48 EDT 2006

Yonah wrote:
>  As for Notzri/Netzari/Nazoraios, etc, Ναζωραιος [Nazoraios] is
> a Greek word which means "an inhabitant of  Nazareth"
> (Ναζαρετ or Ναζαρεθ). The name of Nazareth in Hebrew  is
> נָצְרַת [Natzerat]. The Hebrew word for "Christian" is  נוֹצְרִי 
> and Jesus is often called (based on the assumption that  he
> is the same person spoken of in the Talmud) ישו
>  הנוצרי [Yeshu ha-Notzri] or ישוע הנוצרי [Yeshua ha-Notzri].
For  what it's worth, here's something from Jakob van Bruggen's _Het 
evangelie van Gods zoon_ (Kampen:  Kok, 1997).
6.1.1  The Nazarene
The  name by which Jesus was most often designated in Israel already betrays  
something of the disparagement by others and of his own meekness.  It was  
normal for people to be named after their father (e.g., Simon, the son of Jonah; 
 John and Jacob, the sons of Zebedee).  In Jesus’ case, however, people  
deviated from that rule.  He is designated with the name of the place where  He 
grew up.  That is Nazareth, a virtually unknown village in the northern  area, 
Galilee.  There is something of a condescending tone in the surname  “Nazarene”
: “the villager from Galilee!”

This is emphasized when people in Judea imitate the Galilean dialect by  
pronouncing “Nazarene” as “Nazorene.”  In Galilean Aramaic, the vowel  "a" was 
often pronounced in a muted way, as a "u" or an  "o" (H. Odeberg, The Aramaic 
Portions of Bereshit Rabba with  Grammar of Galilean Aramaic. II.  Short 
Grammar of Galilean  Aramiac [Leipzig: Gleerup 1939] 154).  The Judeans mimic  this 
by speaking of the “Nazorene” (cf. in the Dutch “Hegenaar” or “Gronniger”  
[i.e., a person from Den Hague or Groningen]).  That surname characterizes  
Jesus as a man from the borderlands and also betrays, through this sharp-witted  
tone of mockery [kiene spottoontje?], a measure of disdain.

In the name “Nazarene” there appears a certain displeasure over the  fact 
that Jesus did not take the temple-city Jerusalem as the starting point for  his 
ministry nor the town of Bethlehem, where David had originated.  During  the 
Feast of Tabernacles in John 7, this comes up from various sides.   Jesus’ 
brothers (7:3-4) are surprised that, on the one hand, He wants to draw  the 
attention of the people and, on the other hand, continually keeps moving  around on 
the periphery (Galilee).  The crowds (7:42) wonder why He does  not operate 
from Bethlehem.  And the leaders (7:52) say to Nicodemus that a  prophet does 
not arise from Galilee!

Irritation over this unpretentious and unassuming behavior is evident  from 
the name which the popular language then gives Him: Jesus of  Nazareth!  The 
name “Nazorene” is well-chosen: the striking thing about the  great teacher and 
miracle-worker is, after all, His reticence.  He  astonishes the world, but 
goes around in out-of-the-way  Galilee.  Is  that not weak?  The fact that 
Jesus lets Himself be called this name by  many people indicates something of His 
defenselessness.  People can --  without contradiction or punishment -- 
designate Him with a rather mocking and  distancing [afstandelijk?] name!

The name Nazoraios alludes, via the place name and the  dialect 
pronunciation, to the district of Galilee.  Jesus is “the  Galilean” (Matt. 26:69) and His 
disciples are also seen as “Galileans” (Mark  14:70; Acts 2:7).  People can 
think that Peter belonged with the Nazarene  because his speech betrayed that 
he too comes from Galilee (Mark  14:67,70).  And Jesus can begin to be called “
Nazorene” (cf. John 18:5-8)  because His parents had settled down in Galilee 
(Matt. 2:22-23).

Later, the Jews in Judea designate the Christians as “the sect of the  
Nazorenes” (Acts 24:5).  This indicates that “Nazorene” was the customary  name 
(cf. Matt. 2:23).  The somewhat caustic exaggeration of the dialect  
pronunciation is omitted a few times: particularly in Galilee itself people  say “Nazarene”
 (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34).  In Mark 14:67, a slave girl at  Jerusalem also uses 
the more neutral designation “Nazarene,” but this is then  not a surname 
(which always follows the proper name), but strictly a place  designation before 
the proper name (“the Nazarene Jesus” in place of “Jesus  the Nazarene”).

The idea that the surname originally had nothing to do with the place  name 
Nazareth has pretty much been abandoned (cf. J. A. Sanders, “Nazoraios in  
Mathew 2:23,” The Gospels and the Scriptures of Israel, JSNTSup104,  ed. C. A. 
Evans and W. R. Stegner [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994],  116-28.).  
For a critical discussion of the various theories concerning  the positive 
surplus value which the name allegedly had or received  (Nazirene: consecrated to 
God; Netser: the Shoot of Isaiah  11) and for an overview of theories which 
do not derive the surname from the  place name Nazareth, but from a 
pre-Christian baptizing sect (the Observants),  see J. van Bruggen, “Nazoreeers: de 
oudste naam voor christenen,”  Almanak Fides Quadrat Intellectum (Kampen, 1973),  

John Barach    (541) 531-2906
Pastor, Reformation Covenant Church (CREC)
706 Beekman Avenue
Medford, OR  97501

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